Eight year old Jasleen went on stage and danced her heart out, with the musical magician they call Gurdas Maan- her little hands and legs moving with gusto and rhythm to his songs. Harbans Lal Khanna who was perhaps in his seventees, went on stage and boogied saying emotionally at the end, “I have waited for many years in the hope that you will come and I could show you how much I love you and your music, and can bless you.”
They drove from as far as Michigan to see the man who has made Punjabi music an international phenomenon and Gurdas Maan, the legendary Punjabi star of the millennium didn’t disappoint his fans as he danced, sang, and completely dazzled a mesmerized audience at the Vaisakhi Concert hosted by the Sikh American Society of Georgia, at the Clayton County Performing Arts center, in Atlanta on May 6th.
Resplendent in a lavender lungi kurta, with bells in his ankles, his trademark tambourine in his hand, the legendary musician, who still looks as fit and handsome in his forties as he did as a young debutant on Doordarshan in the early 80s, began the concert with a prayer, before belting out some of his most beautiful numbers- from his evergreen Challa, to songs like Vilayatan ho gayee ve, hai mera dil, Punjabiyan di balle balle from his latest chart buster album Vilayatan. It was the song Baba Bhangra paunde ne that brought Harbans Khanna up on stage as Gurdas Maan jokingly said he was looking for a “baba”(which can be interpreted as an elderly man or a spiritually elevated one!)
The song also brought forth some hilarious jokes from one of Gurdas Maan’s band members. It is often difficult to translate Punjabi jokes into any other language because often they get lost in translation, but there were some which said no matter how much you think an old man to be beyond such things, an amorous heart defies all age barriers as does the love of life and beauty..
In one of the jokes an old man asks his son to get his dentures. The son retorts you’ve already eaten dinner, what do you need to gobble now. The old man responds-nothing I didn’t need to gobble but ogle-look at those pretty girls .I just wanted my dentures because I felt like whistling.
Another old man tells his grandson that people from good families don’t go to watch the circus-it’s a frivolous pastime. The grandson retorts-but our neighbors went and thought it was great fun. There were cute girls in skimpy clothes riding these big white horses. A pause and then the old man says-well in that case I’ll come along too-it’s been awhile since I saw..big white horses!
The mischievous bantering went on between Gurdas Maan and his fellow musicians and then between him and the audience, as Maan went on to sing some more beautiful numbers like Ishq di mari , Ki Khataya mein teri heer banke and Peed tere jaan di among others.
Perhaps what makes the singer so unique is his ability to speak of the most significant issues in life in the simplest of words. To add to the richness and depth of his thoughts, each time he manages to embellish those words with beautiful melodies grounded in the folk songs of Punjab and sufiana spirit.
The second half was heralded by a song by Amarinder who sounds a lot like Gurdas Maan, and has the same strong and melodious voice.
Gurdas Maan began the second half with thoughts on the status of the girl child in India. He invited 8 year old Jasleen on stage and sang about how when a girl is born the parents say she is someone else’s treasure(paraya dhan) when she gets married and goes to her inlaws they say she isn’t ours. Lord Ram deserted her , the five Pandavas lost her in a gamble, and yet he would place the world before her because a girl child is so precious.
Gurdas Maan continued the flow of thoughts with Heer as she was leaving her father’s house after marriage. Heer says my father they are taking me away, please let me stay just one more night and asks him to forgive her for any mistakes made when she was at his house-a visitor in transit.
Little Jasleen sensing the somber tone of the rendition, stayed almost still and then as Gurdas Maan switched gear in his now yellow and blue Punjabi lungi and kurti, Jasleen rocked the stage with the singer as he clapped and cheered her on, following her lead, even doing a cartwheel after her.
Gurdas Maan didn’t sing his two swan songs Mamla gadbad hai and dil da mamla hai, but he belted out Sajna ve Sajna and pind diya galiyan bringing memories of a lost childhood along with his super hit which he jokingly calls the new anthem-Apna Punjab and ending with the beautiful Sarbans Daniya Ve, a homage to the sacrifices of Guru Gobind Singh.
It took Surinder Lalli the main coordinator of the concert along with his volunteers from SASGA nine months of planning and running around.” I went door to door selling tickets, got some great publicity, and it was wonderful to see such a huge turnout. SASGA’s goal has always been to unite people- this concert which had a diverse community- from Pakistanis, Bengalis, members of the Clayton county board, and from Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office, goes to show that we can work together and have fun together.” Lt Gov Mark Taylor who is a popular politician with the Indian community came all the way from Alabama where he was attending a fund raiser to honor Gurdas Maan with a plaque.
The concert was perhaps the best one I’ve seen in a long time, and those who missed it missed an amazing experience.